The Harmaleighs

Official audio, “Moving My Body”

Katie here, and I have the exciting job of introducing you to Haley Grant [lead vocals, guitar] and Kaylee Jasperson [bass, harmonies] of The Harmaleighs— which is partially fun because I’ve gotten to watch some of their growth and changes throughout the years as an early fan, courtesy of the Outlaw Roadshow, but partially because I don’t remember the last time I picked up a record and enjoyed the song titles so much. (That might seem like faint praise, but again, I’m a creative writing teacher: I look at every single word. This was one of those rare occasions where I wanted to download all ten tracks into my knowledge base immediately.)


The last time I saw them, they were a little more Lumineers and a little less Katie Herzog (I understand that’s such a slight distinction in some ways: basically, there’s a little more grit behind the lyrics, even when it still sounds like it could be the sweet ‘voice’ you remember). That said, making heartache and anxiety sound good is still very much what Grant and Jasperson are doing. At one point, they got out of their apartment, got a van, and literally toured the country for months, unmoored and unbound. Those distances and that ability to pick up and go, whether they were homesick, angry, falling in love— all come out in their new record, She Won’t Make Sense. (I warned you about the titles.)

Official Video for “Anthem for the Weak”

There are moments on She Won’t Make Sense that feel claustrophobic, but often those moments are tied (sometimes on the page, but figuratively) to pleasure and pain, like on “Moving My Body.” This claustrophobia is manifested best and clearest on “Anthem for the Weak,” the first track, which is direct:

my friends don’t like you much
i’m a victim to your touch
running ‘round hands free
but you got a hold on me
you keep me stuck in bed
when you linger in my head
screaming your profanities
i’m gripping tight to the key, the key, the key
i try to ignore everything you say
but i’d have to forget my own name
you’re writing anthems for the weak
i don’t wanna hear ‘em but i’m weak
i’m black and i’m blue and i’m tired of singing with you
you’re writing anthems for the weak
i’m hooked on every word because i’m weak
well my mouth won’t stop moving but every song feels out of tune


The idea that the narrator can’t get away, is black and blue, is begging, is trapped— that’s all echoed with some respite on “Moving My Body,” which deals metaphorically with a more sensual type of trap. But with “Anthem for the Weak,” the refutation is in the chorus— a rejection of anthems for the weak, not wanting to sing them anymore. I love the line, “My mouth won’t stop moving but every song feels out of tune.” That kind of relationship— where it’s both toxic and rote, where there was once so much passion that it is muscle memory— stays with the listener. My guess is, on the first listen through, most people aren’t just hearing the lyrics, they’re remembering someone who used to write their anthems when they felt weak.That kind of relatability builds a strong bond between listener and singer (though, thank God, not the one being sung about). 

Audio for “I Don’t Know Myself”

The last song on the record, though, is pulling at me. (This will be popular with… well, you’ve got ears, so I presume you, but also in particular with Ingrid Michaelson fans. There’s a lilt and a loveliness in the warmth of tone here that I’ve seen replicated in her shows.) “I Don’t Know Myself” is a hell of a statement for a title, and as someone who (excitedly!) had someone write “It’s a privilege to know yourself” earlier this year, I can’t say I haven’t worried about their titular declaration. They’re quite a bit more lyrical about it (I was just trying to really drive home the ways in which characters in an Edwidge Danticat story are operating on a different level of needs than, say, the characters in an Edgar Allan Poe story). 

you break into my house when i’m not home
you’re laying claims on everything i own 
you’re sleeping in my bed that’s made
taken my first love away, oh
i am never alone
you tell me 
i’m better off dead
but i can’t stop
i need you 
more than anyone else
you make me feel
the most myself
the most myself 
i don’t know myself 
i’m taking pills to watch you fade away
part of me is wishing that you’d stay
have a cup of coffee baby
i know that the glass is chipping 

i am never alone 

how can i occupy 
a space that frequently denies 

The song is terrifying because there’s no wrong way to read it. Knowing that these women literally drove around the country for the better part of a year, the idea that a “home” is a space we’re all familiar with is out the window— in fact, we don’t even know that the speaker is talking about a space other than their body, as there is such a dissociation and disconnect with the physical and the mental self in the song. Is the speaker saying that someone else has caused them to not know themselves? Are they getting in their own way?


But my God, is it lovely. I feel like the secret— and trust me, this record holds many secrets, some of which are buried in this track— is in the vocal intonation. You can hear where the pain is, and you can hear where it’s numb. That’s an incredible thing to pull off— especially because I’m not going to bore you by telling you where I think it’s painful and numb. That’s not how art works. But when you find the bruises under your own ribs, you’ll know: “Here is why I don’t know myself,” “Here is where I trained myself to believe something false,” or worse, “Wait, do I know myself?” (Truly, the beginning of a philosophical journal is the worst part that isn’t every other step in that journey. Enjoy!)

The Harmaleighs have found a way to take discomfort and make it soothing, which is, I think, one of the truest high callings of art. We are often drawn to moments that break us down a little, and I think it’s because we learn who we are in the struggle. The Harmaleighs don’t play easy, though, so they take you through the struggle… and end with, “How can I occupy a space that frequently denies me.” 

You’ll have to come see them put this beautiful music and journey together at Rockwood Music Hall, November 8-9! We can’t wait to see you— and them— there. 

Lindsay Nie